Trebien and Darrell’s first day of rehearsal at Velocity, August 2016 | video still: Bebe Miller

Shannon’s notes tracking Darrell and Tré’s conversation while dancing:

  • Discontinue where you are
  • Absorbing of pressure
  • skin or surface
  • different rhythm
  • how to amplify the different pressure
  • twinning
  • peripheral reach and range
  • Memories
  • Darrell cutting Tré’s hair
  • Remember different and then it’s gone
  • pray with James
  • Passage from the Personal to abstract
  • Telling—not showing
  • We fought (D & T); history
  • We know when to back off
  • Many many many love that you thought were Loves
  • Forms in correspondence
  • Sharing space
  • Tone to touch
  • Tré finding drive: steely
  • Find positions that don’t feel masculine
  • Can’t hold on too long
  • Inside of arm/arms/peeling
  • Wanting whip—then they whip
  • Suddenly space between opened
  • Trying to hold your hand
  • How do you shift level of intention to the moment at hand?
  • Saying name (Tré)
  • Happening at same time
  • Vogue
  • “Pull yourself inside yourself”
  • Important thing is the syntax not the content
  • Repose—vector—relationship
  • dynamic action of meeting and direction
  • time of mental presence
  • phrasing
  • We ask people to enter into reality
  • you have to let that take its time
  • The room changes because of what you ask of it
  • Wait for the answer
  • Donny (Hathaway) Koolaid: “not too sweet”
  • Charting waking to this room, each other, and the situation
  • rift of knowing each other—history—time
  • Allowing us to have what the room has wrought
  • Weight and time
  • Form of you coming to meet us

A jump forward in the context of the project comes in August. Tré joins Darrell and me for a four-day residency in Seattle. Darrell and I are finishing up a teaching week at the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation and have been invited by Velocity Dance Center to stay awhile longer for rehearsals and an informal showing. Rick Manayan, a student of Darrell’s from Wesleyan University, acts as DJ; Shannon Drake, a BFA graduate from The Ohio State University and former student of mine, is scribe for capturing the train of conversation; Lila is project base.

It is intense to focus so closely on these two men, old friends. They dance together, they share what they know about dancing, they talk about folks they know, about what’s happening in the world, about black contemporary culture, black and gay contemporary culture, ways of improvising, intimate histories. The room is racial, cultural, personal, current, choreographic. They are sweet and fierce and articulate, they divulge what has passed, they challenge, and they conceal. There is a flood of memories between them, shared but not the same.

Their openness to each other in this work is overwhelming. I wonder, what is to be witnessed, what is to be directed, what is to be left alone? One  moment brings up another. Rick finds an episode from The Read, a weekly pop culture podcast by Kid Fury and Crissle West, in which they were having a fine time dissing Kanye West. Next, they bring in an interview from the 1990s between Toni Morrison and Charlie Rose on responses to her book Paradise, and the racialized expectations embedded in the consumption of her work as a whole. I hear singer Nelly’s  “Country Grammar” (from 2000) playing at a donut shop down the street and bring it into the mix. I set up call-and-response dances between Darrell and Tré, joining in now and again to catch, throw, and share timing and phrasing.

By the end of the four days we’ve consolidated a duet.

The range of dancing has been incorporated into a somewhat malleable score, although much of the week’s work has been ingested and filed as back-story. However, the structural tone, the syntax, is unforgettable. The duet feels like a pivot point in the project—race, blackness, abstraction, the circumstances of women and men, art-making, and form are at play.

Trebien and Darrell’s duet is finalized, Velocity, August 2016 | video still: Bebe Miller

There’s a change, however, by the time we premiere the work. Darrell isn’t able to continue with the project. Christal steps into Darrell’s role in the duet with Trebien, adding another voice to this particular conversation.

Trebien and Christal in rehearsal, Jacob’s Pillow, November 2017 | video still: Lily Skove


How Dancing is Built: The Making of "In A Rhythm" Copyright © 2018 by Bebe Miller Company. All Rights Reserved.

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